It seems that no matter what you search for, there is a peer to peer marketplace for it. From recording studios to dog walkers, if you are buying, they are selling. For years, the barrier to entry in the marketplace realm was high. If you didn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest into a development agency, a marketplace was nearly impossible to own. Even for those with technical backgrounds, navigating the business and legal aspects of a peer to peer marketplace would be difficult for a person working alone.
There have been many attempts to turn peer to peer marketplaces into a software as a service over the years. Many have tried to capitalize on this service, but unfortunately, many have failed. There are hundreds of variables that go into starting a peer to peer marketplace, and many software as a service providers simply did not have the engineering capacity to integrate all of these verticals.
Over the past few years, a company based out of Helinski has been working to build a user friendly, low barrier to entry marketplace creator that just about anyone can use. The name of this company is Sharetribe. Their goal was to take the complexities out of developing a peer to peer marketplace. For those with a vision to connect individuals to valuable products and services, Sharetribe claims to offer an easy solution.
The goal of this article is to take a light look into Sharetribe’s platform, and attempt to see if their product is as intuitive as they claim it to be, in regards to setup. Today, we will give an introduction to Sharetribe Open Source and Sharetribe Go. We own a full service web and mobile app development agency, and as such have utilized their platform on behalf of our clients before; so we have a decent idea of how it works.
Sharetribe has several different products, each with varying features and costs. Sharetribe offers several “turn key” style packages that are maintained on Sharetribe servers, as well as having an open source version available for anyone with technical knowledge to download on Github.
Sharetribe Open Source
We have used the open source platform in the past. Having a truly free version of Sharetribe was very beneficial, as we were able to save a lot of labor developing many of the core functionalities of a peer to peer marketplace. The setup was intensive, to say the least. We had our full time server administrator complete the setup, and between provisioning a new server, and getting the application up and running, it took nearly a full day.
Once the platform was running on the server, setup was relatively straight forward. The setup asked a few basic questions and we were on our way to setting up our client’s marketplace. This method was very intensive, and we wouldn’t recommend utilizing the open source technology unless you are an experienced engineer.
The open source version of the Sharetribe is still very powerful, however, this means that any changes or functionalities will need to be developed in house, on your own. There is a community support forum, but the amount of users that are active in the community is low compared to a massive project such as WordPress. Making the open source version of Sharetribe work as a native mobile application is also extremely tricky. For these reasons, you may be better off utilizing one of Sharetribe’s paid plans.
Sharetribe Go, if memory serves me right, is the flagship version of this peer to peer SaaS platform. This was the platform that gave rise to many marketplaces, that over time gave AirBnb a run for their money in terms of design and beauty. Best of all, this platform is hosted by Sharetribe, so users can quickly spin up their very of instance of a peer to peer marketplace in a matter of minutes.
We registered a demo account to see just how fast we could get a marketplace set up. Since our last marketplace was on the open source version, we would have been happy with anything under an hour or so. We walked through the steps, and in less than three minutes, we were greeted by the same welcome screen that took us a full day to set up in the open source version.
As you can see in the above picture, Sharetribe will hold your hand through the setup and walk you through most of the main configurations. If you are inexperienced with platforms and marketplaces, this is beneficial. There are so many variables that need to be properly set up when developing a peer to peer platform, that many things can be easily overlooked. The integrated Stripe payment setup is also very beneficial. This allows members of your marketplace to be paid out automatically.
The best way to truly grasp the capabilities of Sharetribe Go is to sign up for a free trial. This will give you a month to play around with the platform and make sure that it is a product that is suitable for your business. Sharetribe Go is what can be described as the “entry” level of Sharetribe. There is another subscription level called Sharetribe Flex. Flex is the most powerful version of Sharetribe to date, and can let you easily create a native mobile app. Flex also has massive capabilities in terms of APIs. We will be discussing Sharetribe Flex in greater detail next week.
Sharetribe has managed to make a platform out of making platforms. Over the years, they have refined their product to a point that truly beautiful marketplaces can be made in an afternoon. Gone are the days of spending upwards of a million dollars to create a web app allowing users to connect. Please keep an eye out for our upcoming articles that will take a deeper dive into the Sharetribe platform.